Russia Launches Airstrikes Against IS

Russia Launches Airstrikes Against ISRussia Launches Airstrikes Against IS

Russia said it launched airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria on Wednesday after President Vladimir Putin secured his parliament’s unanimous backing to intervene to prop up the Kremlin’s closest Middle East ally.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that its attacks were directed at Islamic State military targets, Reuters reports.

Putin said the only way to fight “terrorists” in Syria was to act preemptively. Russia’s military involvement in the Middle East would only involve its air force and would be temporary.

The Homs area is crucial to government control of western Syria. Insurgent control of that area would bisect the government-held west, separating Damascus from the coastal cities of Latakia and Tartous, where Russia operates a naval facility.

A US-led coalition has already been bombing Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but Putin derided US efforts to end the Syria war at the United Nations on Monday, suggesting a broader and more coordinated coalition was needed to defeat the militants.

“The military aim of our operations will be exclusively to provide air support to Syrian government forces in their struggle against IS,” Sergei Ivanov, the Kremlin’s chief-of-staff, said.

Ivanov said Russia’s missions would be limited and not open-ended. He precluded the use of ground troops.

“As our president has already said, the use of ground troops has been ruled out,” said Ivanov.

Ivanov said the upper house of parliament had backed military action by 162 votes to zero after President al-Assad had asked for Russian military assistance.

Ivanov added that Russia was only acting to protect its own interests in Syria, where it maintains a Soviet-era naval facility at Tartous, its only access to the Mediterranean.

“We’re talking specifically about Syria and we are not talking about achieving foreign policy goals or about satisfying our ambitions ... but exclusively about the national interests of the Russian Federation,” said Ivanov.